Touching Story

Businessman Jim Blythe lends a hand in the wrong places, employees say

Blythe would not agree to an interview but in written comments to the Observer, he denies allegations that he acted improperly toward any of the women.

In court documents, he says he has plenty of witnesses, such as employees, clients, and staff members from The Old Warsaw, who back him up. Blythe says Blythe-Nelson's employees wholly disagree with Turner's statements about the hostile work environment or that he cultivated some sort of harem.

"...All of the employees of Blythe-Nelson, male and female, voiced their disagreement with Ms. Turner's characterization of the work environment and of his treatment of women employees in a letter to the EEOC," Blythe told the Observer.

According to the EEOC, at least some of those employees lied.

Blythe-Nelson, "has provided affidavits of other employees and non-employees who contradict Ms. Wright's allegations, along with affidavits of employees and non-employees who contradicted Ms. Turner's allegations. Ms. Turner has provided transcripts of secretly taped conversations which she had with several of the same persons who provided affidavits. These individuals, apparently at Blythe's request, provided false and perjured affidavits to the EEOC," a Dallas-district office memo from the EEOC says.

As for Turner, Blythe denies the kiss at The Ballpark and both the groping hand and wine bottle incidents at The Old Warsaw. He says he wasn't even sitting next to Turner when he gave the musician a job and that wine bottles are moved off of tables by waiters not by patrons.

He says he never heard of Turner's hairline fracture, that he never made comments or gestures about her breasts or urged her to remove her jacket with any greater insistence than he would have for the others, male and female, who were seated at his table.

And, he says, Turner quit on her own, "without notice."

Similarly, he denies he was ever smitten with Wright or that he acted inappropriately toward her. He wholly denied the incident at The Old Warsaw restaurant. At the advice of his lawyer, he declined to comment about the messages he left on Wright's machine.

At the typically tight-lipped EEOC, Reginald Welch, a spokesman in Washington, D.C., would not comment on the specifics of the complaints against Blythe.

But, he did say that the complaint, which was actually filed only by Turner and Townsend, is a necessary first step that must occur before a federal lawsuit is allowed under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which is supposed to protect employees from sex discrimination. (Townsend could not be reached for comment, and her complaint was not detailed in court records.)

The EEOC said the women's charges "would appear to be a suitable litigation vehicle."

But, if as Blythe says, the claims are groundless and can't be backed up, why are the three women suing him?

"There's probably the motivation for a lot of people that sue, and that is for money," says Tom Lillard, Blythe's lawyer. "There are lots of suits that are filed that have no basis for them. We disagree with their allegations clearly, but I can't speculate into each one of these individuals' minds."

Mediation, which might have resulted in a settlement, has already failed, he says.

Homer Reynolds III, Turner's lawyer, says she is most interested in justice. "Anybody that knows Shirley Turner will tell you that she does not take an enterprise like this lightly. It has been a major, devastating event in her life. There was sexual harassment of a nature that was systematic and prevalent throughout the company at the time she was there," he said.

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